“Action packed” describes more than the plot of Predators (a new movie in the Predator fighting alien franchise)—it also summarizes the experience of being part of the production crew for the 22-day Big Island shoot that wrapped Oct. 31.
Two interns trained in the Hawaiʻi Community College Digital Media Arts program worked on the set of the upcoming Robert Rodriguez film about a group of elite warriors stranded on an alien planet.
Denyse Woo (Digital Media Arts certificate, May ’09) and Skyler Kennedy (Digital Media Arts certificate, Dec. ’09), worked first hand on a production hailed by fans as the ‘reboot’ of an inconsistent but thrilling franchise.
Violet Murakami, associate professor of media arts and Digital Media Arts program coordinator, said she immediately thought of Woo and Kennedy when Big Island Film Commissioner John Mason requested interns for the production. Both had previous experience as production assistants on a television pilot project called Doc in the Box. Woo also was a production assistant for the VH1 reality show My Antonio. Both productions were shot on the Big Island.
Moreover, Murakami says, “they want to eventually make feature films themselves. Denyse and Skyler have a real yearning and desire to learn by seeing how directors and production crews work on big feature films.”
“I do believe this movie will be spectacular,” says Woo, who made a point of watching the unedited footage dailies in the film’s ‘video village.’
The Honolulu native was to start as an unpaid assistant in the film’s office when she received an offer she couldn’t refuse. As the paid assistant to Academy Award winner Adrien Brody, her job was to make sure his life was stress-free. She scheduled the actor’s appointments and transportation, did his shopping and laundry and “made sure he ate six times a day to gain weight for the role.”
Woo said Brody was “easy to work for.” She describes the film’s director, Nimród Antal, as “an inspiration and very personable.”
“I love how films make people feel. They teach, they inspire,” Woo says. “I admire how films use words and action visually to produce a fabulous story. As a filmmaker, your film is a canvas. A film takes people to another dimension in both good and bad times.”
Kennedy, who graduated from Parker School on the Big Island, was the production assistant whose job was to be sure the set was quiet and orderly as cameras rolled.
“I was the person who made sure that the actors could concentrate—that nobody was to walk past the actors, that nothing was moving, nothing was going on,” Kennedy explains.
Director Antal also prefers quiet during his walk to and from the set, he adds. “He might be thinking about what he wants to shoot, what kind of angles,” Kennedy says.
“I learned so much. I learned how the director works with the cinematographer so the cinematographer sees the director’s vision and illustrates that on film.”
“This gave them a behind-the-scenes look at how action films are made,” Murakami says. “They learned quite a lot. They were required to take a digital video class prior to the internship to learn video and film production skills.”
Digital Media Arts is 21-credit certificate program; Murakami says an AS degree in the subject is in the works. Native Hawaiian students receive tuition waivers for certain DMA classes from a federal grant administered by Alu Like to help recruit and retain Native Hawaiian students who want to go into high-tech careers.
Both Woo and Kennedy plan to continue their film studies, Woo at either the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Academy for Creative Media or the Los Angeles Film School, and Kennedy at Loyola-Marymount or Chapman University.
“Every short film I make, I’m learning more,” says Kennedy. “I write the script; I’m the director. I’m working with the sound. I’m working with the actors. I am one of the actors. Having that kind of degree of control over the art, I can portray what I want on camera.” He envisions starting as a director of low-budget films and working his way up.
Woo believes the Big Island has “the potential to become another Hollywood” and that the film industry can revitalize the slumping Big Island economy.
“There is a vast amount of talent here on this island,” she says. “Major production companies should understand that the Big Island is an exceptional place to film a movies, music videos, commercials and television shows and pilots. We have many stories to be told.”